More people are being diagnosed with HIV in Lewisham than previous years, with many diagnosed late.

Latest statistics from Public Health England show 1,631 people were diagnosed with HIV in Lewisham, which is a rate of nearly eight people per 1,000.

This is an increase on the previous year, which saw 1,576 diagnoses and is significantly higher than the London and England average, which saw 5.7 people and 2.3 people per 1,000 diagnosed in 2016, respectively.

According to Lewisham Council documents, nearly half of the population diagnosed with HIV are diagnosed late.

Areas in the north and south of the borough also have some of the highest HIV rates in the UK.

HIV peer support group advocate Husseina Hamza said late diagnoses were an issue, as this meant the virus had already done damage to people’s immune systems.

“It’s about testing, everyone needs to go for testing. There are many problems with people being diagnosed late.”

Ms Hamza, who works for both Red Ribbon Living Well and Africa Advocacy Foundation, said less funding for HIV awareness and testing was having a negative impact in Lewisham.

“We are a charity organisation so we rely on volunteers,” she said.

“If there is no money you can’t support the people.”

She said a large part of their work was encouraging people to get tested, and then providing support once there was a positive diagnoses – but this meant overcoming “taboo” around the subject, particularly in the African community.

“HIV is a taboo topic among the African community. When you say HIV people run far away,” she said.

HIV occurs in all population but the key risk groups are African people and men who have sex with men.

There’s currently no cure for HIV, but there are very effective drug treatments that enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.

Certain groups of people are advised to have regular tests as they’re at particularly high risk, including: men who have sex with men, Black African heterosexuals, and people who share needles, syringes or other injecting equipment.